An Ethiopian in International Taekwondo
It was backin 1966 that the International Taekwon-Do Federation was first founded by Choi Hong hi.After the Southern Korean government abandoned the ITF, the government established the World Taekwondo Federation to continue the mission of taekwondo globalization. Since then,the sport has become popular all over the world. Instructor Elias Kumel was born in Addis Ababa and he started taekwondo in 2001 for the first time after joining at a youngage.He has competed in several competitionsat both local and international levels representing Ethiopia with the help of Ethiopia International Taekwondo Association (EITA). He has 17 medals in total, with the two gold medals achieved in the African championships. Meanwhile, since 2013, the association managed to participate in the World Cup and Elias was capable to compete in this international competition alongside other Ethiopian professionals. A month ago, Elias was invited to the international Marshal Arts Festival which was held in Florida,USA and become a silver medalist participating in two categories. DawitTolesa of The Reporter sat down withEliasKumelto discuss about his career. Excerpts:
The Reporter: Tell us about your first participation in various competitions?
Elias: Well, there were different Taekwondo competitions in Addis Ababa and its regions held by the Ethiopian International Taekwondo Association. During my young age, I had a chance to watch these competitions and in 2004, I competed in the Addis Ababa club championships. After my debut competition,I have achieved several medals in all local tournaments. Following the resignation of my former instructor in 2008, I took a responsibility to manage Choi Hong Hi taekwondo club and since then, I have been working as an instructor. So, my good performances helped me to participate in international competitions across the world.
Now you are managing a club called Choi Hong Hi in Addis Ababa. How does the club exist?
Our club was founded in 1996 named after Choi Hong Hi. We have more than 115 students in both sexes starting fromage 3. More than 15 students have achieved a third degree level and have opened-uptheir own taekwondo sport clubs in Addis Ababa and its regions. It has acquired a legal permission to operate a club since 2001, winningsix Ethiopian championships. Our club was a 20-time champion in the Addis Ababa club tournaments and three time champion in Africa club championships. The main source of income for the club is collected from registration of members. It is a monthly payment paid by individuals.
When was your first experience in international competitions?
Well, my first international competition was taking part in the first Africa cup held in Addis Ababa in 2011. I was competing in third degree level by pattern category and achieved a gold medal. After the first African cup competition in Ethiopia the International Taekwondo Federation decided it would be better for Ethiopian competitors to only focus on hosting continental tournaments and give a chance for youngsters. Then after, for international competitions, we decided to select top professional while for continental tournaments new competitors are chosen. Likewise, for the international competitions, we have set a system to recruit players from the regions hosting Ethiopian championships to represent the country in competitions. I was one of the selected participating in Spain in 2013 for the first time, Italy in 2015, Ireland in 2017 and America in 2018.
You have won two silver medals in the America International Marshal Art Festival. How was the competition?
I received an invitation from the Marshal Art festival and registered in sparring and pattern categories. After the approval of my invitation, I prepared very well by the help of my coaches and minimize the small mistakes that cost me points in the past. I went to America five days before the competition and tried to prepare on my weaknesses. The competition was very tough.It was a knockout Phase competition. After various rounds I reached the final and won two silvers.
What do you think about the future of International Taekwondo in Ethiopia?
Honestly, when we see the progress of Ethiopian International Taekwondo Association we can say it is in a promising phase. Because, we have many clubs across the country, we have an international license and there are a number of individuals with degree level to master. So, this shows us how the sport has progressed so far.
Indeed, we have a lot of professionals, those capable to represent their country in the international arena.Many opponents comment Ethiopia has a better side. However, we have a weak side which we need to improve. Our main problem is we didnot take immediate action to solve our weaknesses. Such kind of international competition has a big value for the up and coming youngsters and we have to work on it.
What are the main challenges?
Ethiopian has 106 authorized clubs and five votes on international taekwondo federation congress. Ethiopia is one of the six countries in the world registered in the congress. On African continental championships, Ethiopia has achieved 26 gold medals from 28 medals over 14 participating African countries. Ethiopian sport’s governing body is not paying attention to Taekwondo comparing it to other sports. Ethiopian ITA is becoming popular in the society involving kids, youths and people with disabilities. Taekwondo has its own values to influence society positively. So, if the government pays attention, Ethiopia also will have a chance to be known by taekwondo rather than only running.